Tag Archives: Mary Queen of Scots

On this day in 1586 – The trial of Mary Queen of Scots began

The trial of Mary Queen of Scots began at Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire on 14th October 1586. Despite being kept essentially under house arrest for the duration of her time in England she was finally officially arrested on 11th August 1586 after being implicated in the Babington Plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth and place Mary on the throne of England in her place. Mary had letters smuggled out of Chartley thinking that they were safe however; they were delivered straight to Sir Francis Walsingham who deciphered and copied them before allowing them to continue to the intended recipients. It was clear in these letters that Mary endorsed the killing of her cousin. Following her arrest she was transferred to Fotheringhay Castle and placed on trial charged with treason under the Act for the Queen’s Safety.

Mary stood trial in front of 36 noblemen that included Cecil, Shrewsbury and Walsingham himself. Mary denied the charges that were put before her and initially refused to even attend the trial but was told by Cecil that it would go ahead with or without her presence. Mary eventually appeared in front of the jury at 9am dressed in a black velvet gown and a white cambric cap and veil. She began to argue that the court was not legitimate and that she had not been allowed to seek legal representation or arrange for any witnesses to appear on her behalf.

Trial of Mary QoSThe counsel seated for the trial

The trial began with the intricate details of the Babington Plot being retold to the jurors and accused Mary of giving her blessing to the plot. A brief exchange occurred between Mary and the jurors;

Mary: I knew not Babington. I never received any letters from him, nor wrote any to him. I never plotted the destruction of the Queen. If you want to prove it, then produce my letters signed with my own hand.
Counsel: But we have evidence of letters between you and Babington.
Mary: If so, why do you not produce them? I have the right to demand to see the originals and copies side by side. It is quite possible that my ciphers have been tampered with by my enemies. I cannot reply to this accusation without full knowledge. Until then, I must content myself with affirming solemnly that I am not guilty of the crimes imputed to me…”

Unknown to Mary, Sir Francis Walsingham had amassed a large collection of evidence against the former Scottish queen that included:-

  • Sir Anthony Babington’s confession
  • A deciphered transcript in English of Mary’s response to Babington
  • A reciphered copy of the original letter sent by Mary to Babington that is an exact replica
  • Confessions from Mary’s personal secretaries.

The court produced this evidence to Mary who broke down in tears but continued to deny any involvement claiming that the evidence presented was fraudulent and that Walsingham was attempting to frame her.

Following a break in the proceedings for lunch the counsel read out the secretaries confessions and although surprised at what was being read out Mary was claiming that the letters must have been intercepted and changed. The proceedings then broke for the day with them to resume the next morning.

trial-of-mary-queen-of-scots-in-fotheringay-castleMary Queen of Scots on trial at Fotheringhay Castle

The next morning saw the counsel go straight into reiterating the accusation that Mary had consented to the plot, the trial would go back and forth between the accusers and Mary with the trial eventually closing with Mary demanding that the case should be heard in front of Parliament and the Queen. Elizabeth delayed the verdict for as long as she could, wrestling with her conscience over whether she could condemn an anointed monarch but eventually on 4th December Elizabeth declared that Mary was indeed guilty but she was unwilling to sign the warrant for her death until 1st February 1587 when Elizabeth asked for William Davison, her secretary, to bring the warrant to her and she signed it but also requested that instead of a public execution she wished that Walsingham wrote to Sir Amyas Paulet, Mary’s jailer, to ask him to perform the task in secret therefore meaning Elizabeth could deny any involvement in it.

However, Paulet was appalled at what was being asked of him and said ‘God forbid that I should make so foul a shipwreck of my conscience or leave so great a blot on my poor posterity’. At the same time Cecil had arranged a secret meeting of the Privy Council where it was agreed that the warrant would be sent to Fotheringhay Castle and appointed the Earls of Kent and Shrewsbury to oversee the execution, they would keep this from Elizabeth until the task was done.

On 8th February 1587 Mary Queen of Scots was executed at Fotheringhay Castle.

execution warantMary Queen of Scots execution warant signed by Queen Elizabeth

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On this day in 1515 – Lady Margaret Douglas was born

Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox was born on 8th October 1515 and was the daughter of Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus and Margaret Tudor, Queen Dowager of Scotland and sister to King Henry VIII. Margaret was born at Harbottle Castle in Northumberland after her mother, Margaret Tudor, fled Scotland after her second husband was threatened by her son King James V.

After Lady Douglas stayed briefly at Berwick Castle with her nurse, Isobel Hoppar, Margaret joined the household of her godfather, Cardinal Wolsey. Following the death of Cardinal Wolsey Margaret was sent to the royal palace of Beaulieu where she lived with King Henry VIII’s daughter, Princess Mary. Margaret and her cousin Mary would be brought up together. Margaret was present at Christmastime at Greenwich Palace in 1530, 1531 and 1532 and King Henry presented his niece each year with a gift of £6 13s 4d.

Following the King’s divorce to Katherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn, Margaret was appointed as a lady-in-waiting to the new queen. It was during this time that Margaret met Lord Thomas Howard and they began a relationship, however by 1535 the couple were secretly engaged. By July 1536 Henry had learnt about his niece’s secret engagement and was furious, he had recently declared that Princess Elizabeth like her elder sister, Mary, was now illegitimate and this left Margaret as next in line to the throne therefore she was expected to seek the King’s permission for any potential marriage. As a result both Margaret and Thomas Howard were imprisoned in the Tower of London and on 18th July 1536 an Act of Attainder was passed in Parliament that sentenced Howard to death for his attempt to ‘interrupt ympedyte and let the seid Succession of the Crowne’. Parliament also included in the Act that it was forbidden that any member of the King’s family could not marry without his permission. Margaret remained in the Tower until she fell ill and the King granted permission for her to be moved to Syon Abbey under the supervision of the abbess. Margaret stayed here until she was released on 29th October 1537, Lord Howard was spared from being executed but remained in the Tower of London until his death two days after Margaret’s release on 31st October 1537.

Margaret wrote to Thomas Cromwell in 1537 shortly before her release to make it known that she had abandoned Howard, she wrote;

My Lord, what cause have I to give you thanks, and how much bound am I unto you, that by your means hath gotten me, as I trust, the King’s grace his favour again, and besides that that it pleaseth you to write and to give me knowledge wherein I might have his Grace’s displeasure again, which I pray our Lord sooner to send me death than that; I assure you, my Lord, I will never do that thing willingly that should offend his Grace.

And my Lord, whereas it is informed you that I do charge the house with a greater number that is convenient, I assure you I have but two more than I had in the Court, which indeed were my Lord Thomas’ servants; and the cause that I took them for was for the poverty that I saw them in, and for no cause else. Be seeing, my Lord, that it is your pleasure that I shall keep none that did belong unto my Lord Thomas, I will put them from me.

And I beseech you not think that any fancy doth remain in me touching him; but that all my study and care is how to please the King’s grace and to continue in his favour. And my Lord, where it is our pleasure that I shall keep but a few here with me, I trust ye will think that I can have no fewer than I have; for I have but a gentleman and a groom that keeps my apparel, and another that keeps my chamber, and a chaplain that was with me always in the Court. Now, my Lord, I beseech you that I may know your pleasure if you would that I should keep any fewer. Howbeit, my Lord, my servants hath put the house to small charge, for they have nothing but the reversion of my board; nor I do call for nothing but that that is given me; howbeit I am very well intreated. And my Lord, as for resort, I promise you I have none, except it be gentlewomen that comes to see me, nor never had since I came hither; for if any resort of men had come it should neither have become me to have seen them, nor yet to have kept them company, being a maid as I am. Now my Lord, I beseech you to be so good as to get my poor servants their wages; and thus I pray to our Lord to preserve you both soul and body.

By her that has her trust in you,
Margaret Douglas”

Margaret returned to court and in 1539 along with the Duchess of Richmond was appointed to greet Anne of Cleves at Greenwich Palace before joining her household staff, however, Henry decided to ride out to meet Anne at Rochester and Anne was put aside just months later. Margaret fell out of favour with the King once more in 1540 after she embarked on a secret affair with Sir Charles Howard, the half nephew of her previous fiancé, Lord Howard, and brother to the King’s new wife, Catherine Howard. Margaret was back at court to be one of the few witnesses to Henry’s final marriage to Catherine Parr. Margaret was appointed as one of Catherine’s chief ladies as they had known each other since they came to court around the same time in the 1520’s.

Margaret DouglasMargaret Douglas

In 1544 Margaret married Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, a Scottish exile who had been involved in the fight for control of Scotland with the Earl of Arran and also the prospect of marriage with Mary of Guise, but it was an offer of marriage to Margaret that Lennox could not refuse. They would go on to have two children Charles Stewart and Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley and second husband to Mary Queen of Scots.

Whilst her childhood friend and cousin, Queen Mary I, was on the throne of England Margaret was assigned rooms in Westminster Palace and in November 1553 Mary told Spanish ambassador, Simon Renard, that she thought Margaret, now Lady Lennox, was best suited to be her successor. Margaret took every opportunity to report gossip to Mary regarding Elizabeth, when Elizabeth was ordered to court after the Wyatt rebellion she was placed in a room in Whitehall that was directly below Margaret’s who turned her room into a kitchen so the noise would disturb the young Princess.

Margaret was integral to Mary and upon her wedding to Philip of Spain she granted Margaret the honour of carrying her train into the ceremony. When Mary died in 1558, Margaret was the chief mourner at her funeral. Following Mary’s death Margaret moved to Yorkshire where she lived at Temple Newsam and was the centre of Roman Catholic activity, which caused issues with her cousin and the new queen, Elizabeth. Whilst in Yorkshire Margaret successfully married her son, Lord Darnley, to Mary Queen of Scots causing a rival claim to the throne of England.

Margaret was sent to the Tower of London in 1566 by Elizabeth but following the murder of her son the following year she was released. Elizabeth wanted to send a clear message that Margaret’s family had no claims to the throne despite the fact she was grandmother to the son of Mary Queen of Scots and Darnley, the future King James. Following her release Margaret cut all association with her daughter in law, especially as she was implicated in the murder of her husband, however, Margaret did reconcile with Mary. With Mary overthrown from the Scottish throne and her infant son chosen over her, Margaret’s husband, Earl of Lennox, acted as regency until his assassination in 1571.

In 1574 Margaret was sent once again to the Tower of London after she arranged the marriage of her youngest son, Charles, to Elizabeth Cavendish – the stepdaughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Margaret was eventually pardoned after her son’s death in 1576. Following her youngest son’s death Margaret cared for his daughter, Lady Arbella Stewart. However, Margaret died shortly after her son on 7th March 1578. Margaret died in deep debt however, Queen Elizabeth I paid for a grand funeral alongside her young son in the south aisle of Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster Abbey.

Margaret_Douglas_tombMargaret Douglas’ tomb

On this day in 1564 – Queen Elizabeth I created Robert Dudley the Earl of Leicester

On 29th September 1564 Queen Elizabeth I created Robert Dudley the Earl of Leicester. It was a move that Elizabeth had been planning for a few months in an attempt to make Dudley a more attractable prospect to Mary Queen of Scots. The marriage proposal between the two had been an idea of Elizabeth’s for some time.

Queen Elizabeth I first proposed the match to the Scottish Ambassador, William Maitland of Lethington who originally laughed at the match he also asked why Elizabeth did not marry Dudley herself and that when she died she could leave her husband and the throne to Mary Queen of Scots.

Sir William Cecil, chief advisor to Elizabeth supported the match as it would not only form an alliance with Scotland but it would also take Dudley away from Elizabeth and the court. Cecil began communicating with Maitland full of praise and support for the match with Dudley however; Maitland did not inform Mary of the proposal from England for the simple fact that Dudley was not a peer.

Thomas Randolph, the English ambassador to Scotland was urged to keep pushing the prospect of marriage with Dudley to Mary despite the fact that neither Dudley nor Mary wanted the marriage to go ahead. Elizabeth had no intentions for the marriage to go ahead, it was purely political as it kept Mary occupied with negotiations and it stopped the gossip within Elizabeth’s own court regarding her relationship with Dudley.

On 29th September 1564 despite the fact that the marriage negotiations between Dudley and Mary were failing Elizabeth created Dudley the Earl of Leicester. The Earldom had been previously held by the likes of John of Gaunt and Henry Bolingbroke (later King Henry IV) and was a prestigious title. It was reported that as Elizabeth placed the chain of earldom around his neck she placed her hand on his neck with a little stroke.

Robert DudleyRobert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

On this day in 1548 – The Earl of Shrewbury arrived at the Siege of Haddington

On 23rd August 1548 Francis Talbot, 5th Earl of Shrewsbury arrived in Haddington with a large army for the Siege of Haddington was part of a series of sieges at the Royal Burgh of Haddington, East Lothian. They were part of the larger War of the Rough Wooing, a war started by King Henry VIII in 1543 whilst he was trying to negotiate with the Scottish over a marriage proposal between his son, Edward and Mary, Queen of Scots.

Following a defeat at the battle of Pinkie Cleugh in September 1547 the Regent Arran took control of Haddington with 5000 troops including some troops sent by the French King, Henry II. By February 1548 the English led by Grey of Wilton captured the town from the Scottish and set about fortifying the town.

The Scottish and French troops began to attack the town in July 1548 when the Scottish organised guns and artillery to be brought from Broughty Castle. Mary of Guise visited the effort of the Scottish troops on 9th July but they encountered the English and 16 of her party were killed. The French eventually ordered their guns to be withdrawn just days later.

Talbot arrived in Haddington and was accompanied by 15000 troops. The Scottish and French retreated to Edinburgh and Leith upon Talbot’s army arriving. The French and Scottish began in fighting. Grey of Wilton wrote to Somerset on 1st November 1548 regarding the state of Haddington and wrote;

The state of this town pities me both to see and to write it; but I hope for relief. Many are sick and a great number dead, most of the plague. On my faith there are not here this day of horse, foot and Italians. 1000 able to go to the walls, and more like to be sick, than the sick to mend, who watch the walls every fifth night, yet the walls are un-manned.”

The English eventually withdrew from Haddington by September 1549 as they ran out of supplies and many of the troops were dead from plague. The French had also sent many more re-inforcements this caused the English to retreat.

220px-Nungate_Bridge_and_Doo'cot,_Haddington._-_geograph.org.uk_-_659907Nungate Bridge at Haddington

On this day in 1567 – Mary Queen of Scots is forced to abdicate the Scottish throne

Mary, Queen of Scots inherited the throne of Scotland when she was just six days old. As an infant Regents ruled in place of Mary until she come of age and was able to rule on her own. Mary spent most of her childhood in France where she was betrothed and later married to the Dauphin of France. Mary returned to Scotland in 1561 despite warnings that the country was now Protestant following the Scottish Reformation led by John Knox.

Mary’s return was successful and in 1565 she married her second cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Mary was soon with child but the relationship between Mary and Darnley broke down and Darnley became the figurehead for Mary’s enemies who on 9th March 1566 burst into her chamber and threatened the heavily pregnant Queen and also murdered her secretary, David Riccio.

Mary gave birth on 19th June 1566 to the future King James VI of Scotland, but just eight months later two explosions ripped through Kirk o’Field in Edinburgh where Lord Darnley had been staying, somehow Darnley escaped with his valet but was found dead in the grounds not from injuries from the explosion but most likely strangulation.

Suspicion fell on the Earl of Bothwell as well as Mary herself, as it was believed they were having an intimate affair especially as Mary and Bothwell were married just three months after Darnley’s suspicious death.

The marriage between Mary and Bothwell caused the Protestant Lords to rise against Mary and on 15th June 1567 the rebel army and the Queen’s army clashed at Carberry Hill, Edinburgh. Mary was taken from Carberry Hill and imprisoned at Lochleven Castle and had fallen ill after miscarrying twins that she had conceived with Bothwell.

It was at Lochleven that Lord Lyndsay and Ruthven brought Mary the deeds of abdication and informed her that she would be put to death if she did not abdicate and pass the throne to her infant son. There were three terms to the deed of abdication; the first was that Mary handed the throne to the infant, Prince James, the second, which the Earl of Murray was appointed as Regent and the third, that a council was appointed to administer the Government until Murray could take up his post.

Without reading the details Mary signed the deed and with that Mary had hoped that the document would be dismissed as she had signed it under duress, however, this was not the case and it was accepted. The one year old Prince James was crowned King James VI of Scotland just five days later at the Church of Holy Rude, Stirling.

Gavin Hamilton painting of Mary signing deed of abdicationA painting of Mary Queen of Scots signing the Deed of Abdication

by Gavin Hamilton

On this day in 1543 – Mary of Guise and Mary Queen of Scots fled Linlithgow Palace

Mary, Queen of Scots was just six days old when she inherited the Scottish throne after the death of her father, King James V.

Upon the King’s death Cardinal Beaton claimed custody of the infant Queen, claiming that the King had written in his will thatMary of Guise the Cardinal becomes Regent, however the Cardinal’s opponents dismissed this claim as a forgery and even accused Mary of Guise and the Cardinal of having undue intimacy. The Cardinal was arrested and the Regency passed to the Earl of Arran.

The Earl of Arran kept the new Queen and her mother at Linlithgow Palace where they were being kept under a watchful eye and the Earl of Arran even negotiated the Treaty of Greenwich with King Henry VIII and agreed that Mary, Queen of Scots would marry the future King Edward VI . On the 23rd July 1543 with the aid of Cardinal Beaton, Mary of Guise fled the castle with her daughter to Stirling Castle. The Earl of Arran initially resisted allowing the move but was overruled when the Cardinal’s supporters gathered around Linlithgow and the Earl of Lennox eventually escorted the pair from the Palace with the help of 3500 men.

It was at Stirling Castle where Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland on 9th September 1543.

Infant Mary Queen of ScotAbove – Mary of Guise

Left – An infant Mary Queen of Scots

On this day in 1543 – The treaty of Greenwich was signed

The Treaty of Greenwich was signed on 1st July 1543 between England and Scotland, the treaty was put forward after the Scottish defeat at Solway Moss the November before. Two sub treaties’s made up the full treaty in a plan developed by King Henry VIII to unite both kingdoms. The Scottish commissioners that were acting on behalf of Mary and her regent were Earl of Glencairn, James Learmonth of Dairsie and Henry Balnaves. Acting as commissioners for Henry were Baron Audley of Walden, Thomas Howard 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Stephen Gardiner Bishop of Winchester, Thomas Thirlby Bishop of Westminster and Barons St John and Gage.

The first sub treaty was to establish peace between England and Scotland in the hope of ending the years of war between the two nations. The second was a marriage proposal between Henry’s son, the future King Edward VI and Mary, Queen of Scots. The marriage proposition put forward that Mary would be appointed a nobleman and his wife who would remain with Mary until she reached the age of ten. At this time Mary would be sent to England to live until her marriage to Edward; this was so she could be taught the English ways.

The treaty was initially signed by the Earl of Arran, Mary’s regent and it was ratified on 25th August 1543 however, when it was put in front of the Scottish Parliament on 11th December 1543 it was rejected. This rejection would lead to eight years of fighting between the two countries in a conflict that would be known as Rough Wooing. The conflict was sanctioned by Henry in an attempt to force Scotland into agreeing to the terms of the treaty.

Instead of Mary marrying Edward she would go on to be betrothed to the French dauphin, F

rancis, son of Henry II.

Edward_VIMary-Queen-of-ScotsLeft – Prince Edward

Below – Mary, Queen of Scots